Ending youth homelessness, with evidence

Paul Morrish, Chief Executive of LandAid, and the latest ambassador for the Centre for Homelessness Impact’s End it With Evidence Campaign, talks about his commitment to bring together key stakeholders and utilise rigorous research to inform decision-making and tackle the challenges faced by young people experiencing homelessness.


This blog first appeared on the Centre for Homelessness Impact website.

We are all living in a time of great challenge and social change. The cost-of-living crisis is pushing prices up across the country and, sadly, at LandAid we are hearing more and more about the adversities that young people are facing, and the heightened threat of being pushed into homelessness.

However, we also know that there is a real lack of solid evidence and data led practise within the homelessness sector and beyond.

This is something that we at LandAid are passionate to change. I believe that with great uncertainty also comes great opportunity.

At LandAid we want to end youth homelessness. To help achieve this I’m delighted to be joining an illustrious group of leaders from across the homelessness sector as an Ambassador for the Centre for Homelessness Impact’s (CHI) ‘End it with Evidence’ campaign.

We are all familiar with the adage, often attributed to the management consultant Peter Drucker, that “you can’t manage what you can’t measure”.

As the property industry grapples with the challenges of delivering Net Zero, this has never been more true. We look for clear, auditable and transparent indicators that the actions we take are reducing our use of carbon and helping to avoid climate catastrophe.

Yet when it comes to the social impact our businesses and industry has, along with the solid figures around the realities of people facing homelessness across the UK, we struggle. How do we measure social impact? What exactly do we measure? How do we understand more about how the built environment industry can support our homelessness crisis?

For a number of years now, across a range of critical areas of social policy, a growing network of data and evidence labs have emerged to provide those who work in, and lead, the social sector with a better understanding of ‘what works’.

It turns out that good intentions do not automatically deliver good outcomes. Some things we do can deliver better outcomes than others.

I’ve worked in the homelessness sector for about 20 years, and I’ve seen (indeed I’ve been responsible) for all manner of ‘interventions’ designed to help and support those experiencing homelessness. Some appeared to work, others were less promising. But what we lacked was a rigorous empirical evidence base to help inform the decisions we made and the actions we took.

The CHI is one of those ‘labs’ I mentioned above – and an inspiring member of the What Works Network. It has brought together or commissioned an extraordinary body of research material to help policy makers and practitioners do less of what doesn’t have an evidence base, and more of what does (especially when the evidence shows positive outcomes).

The ‘End it with Evidence’ campaign is collaboratively using Ambassadors from across the country, now including myself, and working with key partners from governments, local authorities, academia and the third sector to help end homelessness for good, by using the best possible, data-led practices.

We at LandAid are busy working out what we do at the end of this current strategic cycle (March 2024), and I am determined that the work we undertake continues to make a genuine and evidence-informed impact on the travesty of youth homelessness.

We have already ensured that our grant-making, the pointy-end of our work in tackling youth homelessness, is clearly aligned to the Youth Homelessness Positive Pathway, a methodology designed by practitioners and experts in the field, endorsed by the Government, and used in over 50 local authority areas across England. We’re the first funder to do so, and I see this as part of our commitment to being led not by what sounds good, but what actually does good.

And we’ve invested considerably in how we measure the social value of the grant-making we do – offering an answer to those businesses who want to support social action but also want to understand impact and social value better.

Increasingly, I want to see LandAid championing evidence of what works both within our industry, but increasingly in helping policy makers make decisions that underpin the extraordinary fundraising and volunteering that supports our mission.

Going forwards, we need to start with some tough questions – why is it so hard to know definitively how many young people are actually experiencing homelessness?  Without robust data indicating the levels of need, without being better at measuring the problem, how can we ensure that we are, really, reducing – and then ending – youth homelessness?

I am excited at the opportunity that becoming an Ambassador with the ‘End it with Evidence’ campaign will give to further aid this conversation.

Sign the pledge to help improve the lives of people who are homeless by supporting evidence-led change.